ST. LOUIS — Even the replacement for the best postseason slugger in history came out swinging in the playoffs.
Filling in for an injured Carlos Beltran, rookie Matt Carpenter lined a go-ahead two-run home run in the bottom of the third inning of Game 3 of the NLCS on Wednesday afternoon. Carpenter's homer came with two outs and gave St. Louis a one-run lead against San Francisco Giants right-hander Matt Cain.
Beltran left the game after his at-bat in the first inning. The club announced he has a strained left knee and is day to day.
Of course, Beltran's absence seemed like a big deal at the time — and would might be — but Carpenter filled in ably for one monster of a playoff performer.
Beltran hit .269/.346/.495 with with 32 homers in the regular season, and had been continuing his otherworldly production in the playoffs, where he came in a career .378/.489/.838 with 14 homers 30 career games. (Thirty games!) He has three homers so far in these playoffs.
Beltran did not appear to be injured before, during or immediately after he grounded into a 4-6-3 double play in the first inning. But "after a scramble in the dugout" (as reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox TV), Carpenter took Beltran's place in right field in the top of the second. Carpenter hit .294/.365 .463 with 22 homers, five triples and six homers in 340 at-bats. He frequently filled in at third base and first, and played 22 games in the outfield during the regular season.
Carpenter also came in 0 for 5 with three strikeouts in the playoffs and hadn't played in the NLCS. But he also came in 4 for 4 for his career against Cain.
On Sept. 2, Beltran injured the same knee sliding in a game at Washington. He missed the next two games and went into a 3-for-22 skid — for what it's worth — thereafter.
Beltran has an infamous history of being banged up. Reporter Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had noticed that Beltran had his left hand heavily wrapped after Game 2 of the NLCS on Monday night. After several inquiries, Beltran took to Twitter and announced:
My hand feels super good. nothing to worry [about]
— Carlos Beltran (@carlosbeltran15) October 16, 2012